Citrix buys Sapho, and it’s all about microapps and employee experience

Skill shortage is an eternal problem. Retaining skilled employees is imperative to the success of any business. Good employee experience is a major factor that can contribute to employee retention. According to Forbes, companies that invest in employee experience are 28 times more innovative than the ones that don’t. This translates to an exponential increase in productivity. Also, these companies produce four times more profit and two times more revenue. This is why organizations make employee experience a strategic priority and put a lot of effort into this initiative. Creating a good employee experience is more than offering promotions, pay raises, free gym memberships, foosball tables, and free lunches. Employee experience is about giving your workforce all the necessary tools to succeed. Citrix Workspace and Sapho are tools that have delivered on this front in recent years. Both these tools were individually performing well in their own ways. Now, with Citrix’s acquisition of Sapho, the two tools will be integrated, filling in gaps that the other can’t meet. Let us dig deep into the details of this acquisition.

A quick introduction to Citrix


Citrix Systems is an American software company that specializes in cloud-based applications. Citrix’s product line spans across three major branches: networking, workspace, and analytics. Some of the most successful Citrix products include the Citrix Hypervisor (a server virtualization platform), Citrix Content Collaboration (a file sync and sharing product), and Citrix Endpoint Management (a mobility management solution). Citrix Analytics leverages machine learning to provide behavioral analytics. The company also offers a wide range of networking solutions that include Citrix Web App Firewall, Citrix ADC, Citrix Application Delivery Management, Citrix Gateway, and Citrix SD-WAN. Most of its growth is driven by its SaaS division.

Citrix’s ‘acquire and conquer’ strategy

The three-decade-old company started with developing remote access tools for Windows devices. Later, Citrix acquired companies like Sequoia Software and ExpertCity to expand its abilities and create an entire library of remote access applications. Citrix then expanded its business to the server desktop virtualization markets. Later, the company also spread into the SaaS and IaaS sectors. Citrix is known for acquiring companies to augment its portfolio and to that end, they’ve made over 50 acquisitions. Considering this history of successful acquisitions, Citrix’s acquisition of Sapho is not surprising.

Citrix workspace

Enterprise application management platforms come in a myriad of options — both for on-premises and cloud environments. End users spend significant amounts of time switching between applications, handling diverse systems often leading to confusion and frustration. This is where Citrix Workspace comes in. Citrix Workspace redefines the employee experience by aggregating all the systems in one place. Virtual applications, desktops, SaaS, content on mobile and web are all unified into a single workspace here. Files from cloud storage, network drives, and on-premises storage can be easily aggregated, thus providing a great content collaboration experience. The environment is also evolving to automate certain processes and take the boring tasks off your employees’ to-do list. This way, employees will have more time to focus on creative, high-value tasks.

employee experience
Flickr / Citrix Systems

How Sapho will fit into Citrix Workspace

Employee engagement systems are being upgraded at a breakneck pace. But this doesn’t mean that companies have to entirely rip their legacy systems out and replace them with new software. Sapho’s solution can incorporate modern work practices in legacy systems. Sapho develops microapps for legacy software. Microapps enable employees to use legacy software as simple as they would use other modern applications. Sapho’s microapps for employee collaboration tools cover over 50 popular SaaS products. Sapho will basically bring its microapps to Citrix Workspace.

Understanding microapps

A microapp is a small interactive module that can behave like a fully coded application. Microapps are highly mobile and can be accessed on any device, screen, and operating system without having to be installed separately. Every microapp has a specific and highly targeted functionality. For example, the application that tells you how full your hard drive is on your desktop is a micro-app.

Microapps and Citrix’s ‘build your own enterprise apps’ efforts

Microapps are extremely useful when it comes to developing enterprise applications. Because unlike the traditional methods, developers don’t have to write code for the entire application. Instead, she can weave together a lot of microapps and kickstart the application. Microapps are different from microservices. Microservices are small applications with full functionality but microapps just have the UI-level construct. Many microservices together make up an entire application, whereas microapps interact with other applications. Buying Sapho is part of Citrix’s “build your own enterprise apps’ effort.” Microapps fit perfectly into the Citrix Workspace strategy.

employee experience
Flickr / Marco Verch

Sapho microapps in Citrix Workspace

Microapps enable IT employees to take actions really quick. Sapho microapps are mobile and can work well on both phones and computers. This mobility can create massive improvements in employee efficiency when integrated into Citrix Workspace. Sapho microapps were initially launched with a mission to carry out quick actions (for example, a notification with visuals and buttons). This reduces the need to jump between apps to accomplish minor tasks.

You can easily initiate micro workflows such as escalations, approvals, and data requests using microapps. With Sapho, Citrix Workspace can instantly integrate with enterprise applications like ServiceNow, Salesforce, Workday, Microsoft PowerBI, Microsoft Teams, and SAP Concur. This would eventually deliver a modern, task-oriented experience that bridges the gap between legacy software and modern SaaS platforms like the ones just mentioned.

Acquisition details

Citrix acquired Sapho for $200 million in an all-cash deal. Since its founding in 2014, Sapho has raised $28 million in investments and has more than 90 employees. The company has been consistently rolling out successful products every year. In 2017, Sapho launched a tool for Microsoft Teams that can integrate messages from various SaaS tools using a single bot. Sapho’s employee experience portal was introduced in 2018. With these successes under its belt, buying Sapho is a safe bet for Citrix in the long term. Microsoft and IBM were contenders for Sapho before Citrix snapped it up.

Both Citrix and Sapho already have somewhat of an overlap in their customer bases. According to Sapho CEO, Fouad ElNaggar, a few of Sapho’s customers had been requesting for integrations with Citrix services already. These requests particularly created an interest for the acquisition. Also, Citrix will help Sapho customers to smoothly transition to Citrix Workspace going forward.

Cirtix and Sapho: Microaaps for good employee experience

Most enterprises choose Citrix over its competitors mainly because of its integrated feature set. Citrix Workspace is a complete workspace solution and is made up of core Citrix technologies such as XenMobile, Worx mobile apps, XenApp, XenDesktop, CloudBridge, ShareFile, and NetScaler. This gives workers secure access to data from any device. The suite also comes with enterprise-level security with password authentication. IT teams can easily configure data encryption, inter-app policies, secure lock and wipe, and micro VPNs to mobile apps. These features make Citrix a perfect fit for enterprise-grade applications and give it a competitive advantage. Citrix is especially aggressive when wooing prospects away from competitors like VMware, MobileIron, Blackberry, and Good Technologies by giving them a promotional 50 percent off when they replace their current workspace solutions with Citrix Workspace Suite. Last year at Synergy, Citrix announced an actions tab in the Citrix Workspace which looked a lot like Sapho. Speculations suggest that the Sapho features might eventually populate the actions tab in many of the Citrix apps.

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